Kyra Doubek understands how and why young women are caught in the throes of human trafficking.
She was a victim herself.
Homeless and helpless, Doubek was first exploited at age 15 and prostituted off and on throughout her late teens and early 20s.
Fortunately, she was able to find help and escape that sordid life.
Today, Doubek is a survivor of commercial sex trafficking, an advocate, a mentor who vows to help those who have passed a difficult way. She considers herself a living, personal miracle.
Working in concert with Kent Police, prosecutors, experts and community partners, Doubek is extending a helping hand to try to stem a prevalent and complex problem that no longer is exclusively visible on local streets or found in seedy motels, working-class homes or even upscale neighborhoods. It’s often hidden on the internet, lost in the anonymity of online transactions.
According to authorities, human sex trafficking is the most common form of modern-day slavery. According to the U.S. Department of State’s statistics from 2000, there are approximately 244,000 American children and youth that are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
“I tell every single woman that I know exactly where they’ve been. I know what it’s like,” said Doubek, a CSEC (commercially sexual exploitation of children) behavioral health specialist with Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS) and a tireless advocate for victims. “I’m here to support them … to walk alongside them.”
Doubek has been a welcomed addition to a team that includes police and detectives who directly and immediately respond to and treat victims. While she isn’t able to help each victim fully regain their feet, she remains steadfast in doing as much as she can to curb a chronic problem.
“I hope some day I work myself out of a job. I hope that sex trafficking can stop,” said Doubek, who has provided education to more than 100 community members, followed up on 18 runaway reports and provide services to 20 other people in her short time on the job. “I don’t know (if the problem) is going to stop in my lifetime, but I’m hoping I can put a dent into it.
“Some days are hard. I’ve heard and seen the most horrific things and I’ve experienced the most horrific things. This is the easy side (of my daily work),” she said. “The way I look at it …. I’ve already climbed out of a drowning ship. I know the way out, so I’m going to throw the rope down to as many people as I can. Sometimes they grab onto it and they start climbing up and sometimes I have to pull the rope and drag them up a little bit.”
For Doubek, it is important to have survivors do this type of work. Some victims are dubious, frightened of law enforcement, but others may struggle to welcome the help of someone who was part of an insidious exploitation and trafficking cycle.
“She completely understands what has led them to this,” said Carina Raddatz, director of development and community relations with KYFS. “They trust her, and that’s exactly what we need in order to help them with the resources they needed to get them out of that life.”
Doubek began her work last September, financed in part through a one-year grant awarded by DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) in collaboration with KYFS and Kent Police. From human and sex trafficking stings, convicted offender and victim assessment fees help pay for police enforcement and support victims’ programs, according to Police Chief Ken Thomas.
The hope is to find revenue sources to make the position permanent. As case manager, Doubek provides services to victims of sex trafficking and other at-risk populations, particularly youth in Kent ages 12-25.
Her role is important. The average age of someone being first exploited in the U.S. is 13½, according to a national study.
Thomas and KYFS Executive Director Michael Heinisch discussed the possibility of bringing aboard an advocate for years. Having someone with Doubek’s credentials working closely with police and provide on-scene and immediate intervention to victims is unique and not universally practiced throughout the country.
Doubek’s arrival has helped balance time-consuming case work and followups with detectives and staff, allowing each party to do what they do best.
“I am like the biggest fan to kind of see this thing finally come to fruition,” Thomas said. “Kyra has been an immense help. … She’s so passionate about the work and has a great reputation. She presents well, and she just does an incredibly good job working with the victims.”
Heinisch said of Doubek’s role: “It opens the huge possibility of getting some of these women (and others) out of that (cycle).”
Along with intervention, the work involves education and the community. The KYFS – as it identifies January as CSEC Human Trafficking Awareness Month – is working to help others fight the crime. The agency provides presentations to schools, service organizations and others who want to know more human trafficking, how to spot its signs and symptoms and how to prevent it and find helpful resources and services.
The goal is make everyone aware, empower those to fight back and offer ways to heal.
The task is ongoing.
“Everybody is working at an incredible level, to come together and help stop this in Kent,” Doubek said.
For more information, please call or visit 253-859-0300, kyfs.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.